Invasion of Rendova Island, 30 June 1943

The invasion of Rendova Island (30 June 1943) was the first major step in the US invasion of the New Georgia group and was carried out in order to establish a base for the attack on the Japanese base at Munda on the main island.

Map of Allied Invasions, Solomon Islands
Solomon Islands:
Allied Invasions

Rendova was defended by fewer than 300 Japanese troops - 140 from the Japanese Navy and a company of 150 men from the 229th Infantry Regiment.

Before dawn on 30 June the destroyer transports USS Dent and USS Waters landed the 'Barracuda' scouting team from the 172nd Regimental Combat Team on Rendova. Their task was to secure the main landing beaches at the northern end of the island, and prepare for the main landings. The landing site was to be marked with a light that had been placed by scouts who had been on the island for several days, but rain put out the light and the Barracudas landed at the wrong place. The 'Barracudas' didn't reach the landing beaches until well after the start of the main invasion, after re-embarking on their original transports and sailing down the coast.  

New Georgia Campaign
New Georgia Campaign

At sunrise on 30 June (about 7.00am) the rest of the 172nd Infantry and a company of Solomon Islanders under Major Martine Clements of the local constabulary transferred from four transport ships into landing craft and supported by eight destroyers headed towards the beach. The main landings went well. The Japanese were caught by surprise and couldn't reach the beaches in time to man their defences. Instead they attempted to hold a line 100 yards inland from the beach. The 172nd killed about a quarter of the Japanese garrison, including their commander. The Barracudas arrived after about an hour, and the Japanese were soon forced away from the beaches. The survivors of the Japanese garrison now fade from the picture, and were chased down by Fiji Commandoes or escaped by canoe to Munda.

Knee Deep in Mud on Rendova
Knee Deep in Mud
on Rendova
The Japanese at Munda were unable to interfere in the landings. Their coastal guns were pointing in the wrong directions, while their mountain artillery lacked the range to reach the islands. Their aircraft had been moved back to Rabaul to protect them from the constant Allied air raids. When the Munda gun batteries were finally able to open fire, it was on the destroyer screen. The USS Gwin was hit, and was sent back to defend the transport ships, while the remaining destroyers silenced the Japanese guns. The Gwin laid a smoke screen to protect the transport ships, and unloading continued without a pause. By 11.00 unloading was half complete, and a new problem was beginning to develop. As the Americans attempted to move inland their vehicles turned the ground into deep mud. Many of the supplies thus had to left on the narrow beach. Despite these difficulties the first 105mm gun battery was soon completed, and at 17.00 opened fire on Munda.

US Marines carrying generator, Rendova
US Marines carrying generator, Rendova

The first Japanese aircraft didn't appear until 11.15 when 27 Zeroes were detected flying down the Slot. They were intercepted and nearly wiped out, but their approach did delay the unloading by an hour. Even so all 50 tons of supplies were onshore by 15.00 and the fleet began to withdraw. A more serious air strike was detected at 15.30, this time consisting of 25 Mitsubishi G4M Bettys and 24 Zeroes. This force headed for Rendova. After finding no transports there the Japanese aircraft headed along the southern coast of New Georgia. They were intercepted by 16 F4U Corsairs from Marine Fighter Squadron 221, but ten managed to get through to attack the fleet. The transport McCawley was hit in the engine room and stopped dead in the water. She was being towed away when a nearby PT boat, believing her to be Japanese, torpedoed and sank her. 

On 1 July the second echelon landed on Rendova, bringing 155mm howitzers.

Muddy soldiers, Rendova Island
Muddy soldiers,
Rendova Island

It took Admiral Kusaka at Rabaul two days to scrape together enough aircraft for a worthwhile attack on Rendova. On 2 July 25 Mitsubishi G4M ‘Betty’ bombers and 25 Zeroes surprised the Americans. The Japanese approached the island behind the cover of a weather front, flew around the southern end of the island, up the east coast and attacked the Americans on the beach from the east.

US 155mm Gun M1 (Long Tom) on Rendova Island
US 155mm Gun M1 (Long Tom) on Rendova Island
The same weather front had forced the Americans to withdraw their fighter patrols from the island. The Japanese attacked killed 59 men and wounded 77 on the beach and wrecked a field hospital.

On the night of 2-3 July the light cruisers Yubari and nine destroyers bombarded Rendova, but only hit jungle.

On 4 July the Japanese launched a larger air strike, this time with 100 aircraft. Only 16 managed to reach Rendova, and 12 of those aircraft were shot down by anti-aircraft fire from the island. This was the last major Japanese air attack in the central Solomons.

Rendova was now securely in American hands, although the island came under frequent air attack. On 3 July the first few American troops crossed over to New Georgia, landing at Zanana, east of Munda. Over the next few days the main invasion force crossed to Zanana, and the battle for Munda began (2 July-5 August 1943).

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (26 April 2013), Invasion of Rendova Island, 30 June 1943 , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/battles_rendova_island.html

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